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Research that Supports Recreation

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Teaching, Learning, and Play in the Outdoors

Key Message

Teachers evidenced that outdoor learning increases student engagement and enhances educational experience.


Mannion, G., Mattu, L. and Wilson, M. (2015). Teaching, learning, and play in the outdoors: a survey of school and pre-school provision in Scotland. Battleby, Redgorton, Perth: Scottish Natural Heritage.


This report provides new baseline measures on the impacts of taking learning outdoors. There is significant evidence on how outdoor learning provision is understood to enhance engagement, and challenge and enjoyment, for example. We can also report on the prevalence of themes in learning (such as sustainable development), the association of going outdoors with the pedagogical approaches taken (such as cooperative learning), and the effect of schools’ locations in areas of deprivation on provision.


Teachers resoundingly evidenced that taking learning outdoors has many effects: enriching learning and play, affording active and collaborative approaches, and enhancing many important aspects across a wide range of subject areas and thematic aspects. Overall, evidence suggests that pre-schools have made particularly good progress in increasing provisions, whilst many schools have increased outdoor provisions in grounds and on residential trips. However, across all sectors, further substantial increases are realistically achievable. The low average frequency of teacher-led trips beyond the grounds indicates local areas are particularly under-utilised by all sectors. Findings indicate outdoor learning across the curriculum is worthy of sustained attention, partnership working, and policy support. Further research and pre- and in-service teacher development are needed to (a) understand the different purposes, processes, and effects of outdoor learning and play in different settings, (b) to increase provision, (c) to address the particular challenges faced by each sector, and (d) to address issues distinctively faced in deprived areas.

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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